173rd adds brand new intelligence class to its repertoire

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar
  • 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 173rd Fighter Wing embodies the culture of training, and Jan. 7 it increased its scope with the establishment of the F-15C Intelligence Formal Training Unit (IFTU) course at Kingsley Field.

"The IFTU course is designed to prepare Intel analysts to support F-15C operations," said Maj. William Wilkinson, 173rd Operations Group F-15C IFTU course chief. "Our mission is to conduct initial qualification training for students new to the Eagle community."Much like the fighter pilots who come to Kingsley Field to learn to fly the F-15C, both enlisted and commissioned intelligence specialist who will work at an F-15C base spend approximately 30 days here learning the specifics of intelligence operations and mission planning for the Eagle.

Wilkinson explained that students come straight to the IFTU after arriving at their first duty station with very little to no military experience.

"We introduce the Intel analysts to the F-15C systems, tactical employment and lessons learned from current and historical operations," said Wilkinson. "This course provides the fundamentals for mission planning for the full realm of Eagle operations both in combat and in support of homeland defense."

The first class of six, three Active Duty and three Air National Guard, graduated Feb. 1, on the 30th anniversary of the first F-4 fighter pilot graduation at Kingsley Field. Their feedback is helping to shape the syllabus for future classes.

"Student feedback was very important from the first class," said Wilkinson. "It allowed us to see if we were hitting the mark with the execution of the new academics and syllabus."

He feels they did a good job based on the feedback, though they did modify some of the syllabus and are already seeing an improvement in the current class. In addition to many hours of classroom work and studying, students are given the opportunity to fly several missions in the state of the art F-15C simulator. Furthermore, each class member has the chance to fly in a real training sortie to his enhances their understanding of the pilot's needs and experiences.

"This will be an evolving syllabus that will change based on advancements in both U.S. and adversary systems and tactics," added Wilkinson. The IFTU course, which teaches both Active Duty Air Force and Air National Guard, was originally based out of Tyndall Air Force Base. The Wing could host as many as six to seven classes a year.

"It makes sense that as the sole F-15C schoolhouse, we would also "top-off" the Intel specialists that will be stationed at F-15C bases around the world," said Col. Frederick French, 173rd Operations Group commander. "We are super happy to have the IFTU mission at Kingsley Field. It speaks volumes for how much trust the active duty and Air National Guard place in this base."

Training has been interwoven in the history of Kingsley Field. In 1983, the first schoolhouse opened with the training of F-4 Phantom pilots. The last F-4 class graduated in November 1988 and the first Air Defense Fighter modified F-16 aircraft arrived March 1989, followed by the first F-16 student class on July 1989. In 1998, Kingsley said goodbye to the Falcon and welcomed the F-15 Eagle. As of 2010, the 173rd Fighter Wing is home to the sole F-15C training unit for the United States Air Force.